Pubdate: Mon, 26 Aug 2013
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2013 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Tim Harper


Pot-Smoking Leader Winning So Far, but Everyone's Luck Runs Out

Justin Trudeau is flying awfully close to the flame.

He may yet get scorched.

Since entering federal politics, the Liberal leader has taken a 
series of risks.

They've all been calculated risks, but risks nonetheless.

He has profited from many and appears to have survived them all, but 
by playing the political game in such an unconventional manner, there 
is no guarantee that this string of good fortune can be sustained.

He's surviving, even flourishing, with a combination of charisma, 
favourable treatment from a national press pack desperate for a 
little colour in a drab political landscape, mastery of social media 
- - and a little luck.

Trudeau took his first risk in choosing the riding of Papineau in 
which to run in 2008, eschewing safer turf for a Bloc Quebecois-held 
riding, unseating a popular incumbent.

He has taken mock pratfalls down a flight of stairs for the 
television cameras, he did a faux striptease in front of the cameras 
at a charity fundraiser, he stepped into the boxing ring against a 
then-Conservative senator.

Had he been carried out of the ring in the battle with Patrick 
Brazeau, we would not be having this conversation. But he took a 
calculated risk and he won.

He took a risk in coming clean to an Ottawa reporter about his 
personal wealth and the money he earned on the speaking tour, then 
took an even larger risk by still accepting speaking fees after being 
elected an MP.

He risked overplaying his hand as the reluctant leadership candidate, 
but played it well.

He's even taking a calculated risk with his image by moving his 
family into elite Rockcliffe Park in Ottawa while championing the middle class.

Which, of course, brings us to his most recent risk, his interview 
with The Huffington Post.

It is not news, of course, that a 41-year-old man has smoked a joint, 
and the marijuana question is a journalistic trick that is more than 
two decades old.

It doesn't automatically make him cool, just as not smoking a joint 
doesn't immediately make one uncool.

People have been smoking joints in this country for decades and 
they're not all cool.

The risky part for Trudeau came with the details.

Trudeau could have acknowledged he had fired up a joint, five or six 
times, as he did, but he took the risk in volunteering that he has 
smoked a joint since becoming an MP, an MP who was clearly thinking 
of federal leadership, and an MP who voted in favour of tougher 
marijuana possession penalties.

More interesting, for me, in the interview, was the ease with which 
he brought his late brother into the mix, revealing Michel Trudeau, 
who died in an avalanche in 1998, was facing a charge of marijuana 
possession at the time of his death.

That led him to question the criminalization of marijuana, Trudeau 
said, but that didn't really seem to be a reason to go there and we 
can't go to Michel for context or an explanation.

More often than not, Trudeau seems determined to fill dead air and, 
in his quest for candour and openness, he sometimes fills in too many blanks.

Living his life as an open book has an appeal, but while some will be 
drawn to this openness, he is also raising the judgment question, one 
sure to be exploited by his political opponents in the coming election.

He has emerged unscathed, perhaps enhanced, and he can still dominate 
a news cycle like no other Canadian politician.

A case in point - last week NDP leader Tom Mulcair was fulminating in 
both official languages about Stephen Harper's decision to prorogue parliament.

Barely had the television lights dimmed on the opposition leader when 
Trudeau tweeted that he and wife Sophie Gregoire were expecting another child.

Mulcair's message was immediately vaporized.

So, we can expect another Trudeau baby and we know he smoked a joint 
at a dinner party a few years ago.

But I'm not sure I have any idea where Trudeau stands on prorogation, 
the latest twist in the Senate spending fiasco or the potential of a 
giant American player entering the Canadian wireless market.

The Trudeau risk initiative, calculated as it is, is so far working. 
But everyone's luck runs out at some point.

And he seems habitually drawn to that flame.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom